Published: May 17, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Doyle
NEW YORK CITY – Americana Week at Doyle totaled 1,931,185 as bidders from coast to coast competed over two days of sales on May 3 and 4. Showcased were paintings and prints, high-style and country furniture, silver, folk art, Chinese export porcelain and more. A celebration of the fine and decorative arts of the United States, the week was highlighted by property from the Christine Biddle Wainwright collection that was notably strong in works from Philadelphia and whose collection yielded some of the top results of either day of auctions. The sales followed a special preview of highlights at the Sedgeley Club in Philadelphia and a New York exhibition that attracted hundreds of collectors, museum curators, designers and trade buyers. With competitive bidding, the sales surpassed its estimate of $1,103,025/1,758,575, and achieved a sell-through rate of 92 percent.
The sale was also the inaugural one for Chris Barber, who joined Doyle in March as the firm’s newest vice president and director of American furniture and decorative arts. When we caught up with Barber after the sale, he had a lot to say.
“I’ve a lot of satisfaction as to how the last couple of weeks have gone. The Philadelphia preview was a great success and there was satisfaction in bringing a Philadelphia collection to Philadelphia. There were a number of people who went to that, and we got to see and meet them. It was a great way for the Americana Week at Doyle to go and, as my first one, it felt all the more special to see so many strong prices over so many categories.”
The Christine Biddle Wainwright Collection
The top lot of the week was a portrait of Commodore James Biddle (1783-1848) by Thomas Sully (American, 1783-1872), which had been painted in 1839 and which sailed to $94,500 from an estimate of $30/50,000. According to Barber, the work “had what people want a Sully to have.” By that, he meant a historically important sitter, a pleasing composition and great provenance. He noted there had been both interest in the work from both institutions and private collectors.
The work was one of five works by Sully that were offered over the two days of sale, including two others from the Biddle Wainwright collection, one from a private New York State collector and an archive of Thomas Sully and family studies, letters and ephemera from a Sully family descendent.
The second highest result of the event was $88,200, earned by an early map of Pennsylvania, which was drawn and published by Nicholas Scull in 1759, engraved by Jas. Turner and printed by John Davis. Notably, the map has been cited as the “first large-scale map of Pennsylvania and one of the most important Eighteenth Century maps engraved in what is now the United States.” It had been given to the Biddle family from a member of the Scull family in 1960.
A near pair of silver two-handled urn-form vases, made by Philadelphia silversmiths Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner in 1831 and two of ten made at the order of Thomas Biddle on the evening before Biddle was to fight in and ultimately die from wounds sustained in a duel with Missouri congressman Spencer Darwin Pettis. The calyx krater-form urns incorporated the Classical style and cost a substantial $60 each, more than the average annual salary for Americans. Doyle offered the near pair with an estimate of $7/10,000; they sold for $59,850.
The Biddle Wainwright collection had a number of significant signed documents and manuscripts that found favor with bidders. Two bore the signature of Benjamin Franklin, one signed in 1775 appointing Nicholas Biddle as captain of the ship Franklin, which was named after Benjamin Franklin. It went out at $47,250. The other Franklin document was a 1787 land grant in Philadelphia to Charles Biddle that bidders pushed to $23,940.
Various Owners American Paintings, Furniture & Decorative Arts
Blue chip Nineteenth Century American artists were represented in the sale with works by William Trost Richards, Frederic Remington, Jasper Francis Cropsey, George Inness, Robert Gifford, William Pierce Stubbs, Thomas Birch, Edward Moran, Ernest Lawson, George Loring Brown, Severin Roesen, and William Zorach. Leading the selection of American fine art and achieving nearly 30 times its high estimate was “John Brown’s Grave Site at North Elba, New York” by William Trost Richards (1833-1905), which brought $69,300. It was followed at $47,250 by an 1892 watercolor on paper by Frederic Remington (1861-1909), which was titled “Half Sliding, Half Plunging, Down Went the Little Mare also known as The Desparate [sic] Riding of the Buffalo Hunter, Over a Cut-Bank, and Running Buffalo.” Rounding out the fine art highlights at $18,900 was “Ruins at Paestum,” an intimate oil on canvas landscape.
Decorative arts from various owners also attracted interest. A George II-style mahogany parcel-gilt mirror more than doubled its high estimate and made $5,040, a result no doubt helped by its provenance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art; it was one of nine lots of mirrors and a pair of figural andirons being deaccessioned. A mahogany and burl veneer astronomical regulator by E. Howard & Co. from a corporate collection chimed out at $34,650 and a small carved painted tobacconist trade figure in the form of a Native American smoked its $6/8,000 to bring $18,900.
Silver & Pacific Trade
Nearly 250 lots of silver and Chinese export – which Doyle dubs Pacific Trade – crossed the block on May 3. The top price of the day had a foot in both categories – an impressive Japanese export sterling silver tea and coffee service with chased dragon decoration that had been made by Arthur & Bond in Yokohama in the early Twentieth Century. Selling for $13,860 and nearly tripling its high estimate was a Qing dynasty 12-panel screen profusely decorated with a courtly figural scene. A group of three Chinese export hardwood framed porcelain plaques with similar figural scenes made $8,190, while a group of five China Trade school landscapes sold within estimate, for $5,040.
Silver offerings were bolstered by 15 lots from the Daniel and Joanna S. Rose Collection, from which was represented in the sale’s “top ten” by six lots. Two extensive flatware services, both by Tiffany & Co., and both in the Olympian pattern, achieved the first and second place finishes, at $28,350 and $25,200, respectively. It is clear that the Roses preferred the Olympian pattern – an even dozen lots were pieces in this pattern. A pair of Tiffany & Co. wine coolers topped off at $17,640, while a punch bowl ran to $11,970. Towards the more modest end, a crumber was swept up for $1,386.
Doyle’s next Americana sale will take place in November, date to be announced. For information, www.doyle.com or 212-427-2730.
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